When you think about a photography competition, you’ll imagine ribbons, a few amateurs, and some very dedicated enthusiasts mixing with professionals taking pictures on a theme. The Nikon Small World competition is entirely different. Many people forget that Nikon glass is used in a variety of different items outside of camera gear including scientific devices. The Small world competition is about light microscope photography which combines the world of microscopy with photography. There is also a companion video competition called Small World In Motion for microscope videos. The competition has been around since 1975 and is a very small, but unique niche of photography.
Small, Yet Challenging World of Photomicrography
A photomicrograph is useful because it captures what the eye is seeing under a microscope, thereby documenting the science or structure of whatever that subject is. A good photomicrograph isn’t just capturing the science though; it includes composition and artistic elements with multiple levels, it may even include multiple subjects. Photomicrography is more challenging than a regular photograph, not just because you’re dealing with a very particular set of equipment but because you’re limited to an incredibly tiny area to compose in. Not only that but for the light to show through your subject it has to be extremely thin.
What to Submit
Photomicrographs are taken using a light microscope only, electron microscopes are not the same thing, and images using an electron microscope are not allowed. Microphotography and macro photography are different and shouldn’t be confused since macro photography is not allowed as an entry. Images don’t have to be taken with a Nikon microscope, but they do have to either be digital or film, and the “in motion” category has to be less than 60 seconds with no graphics and no sound added. You may submit up to 3 images, but entries for the Small World and Small World in Motion must be separate. Entries are judged on four categories – originality, artistic impact, informational content, and technical proficiency.
The Art of Clicking Photomicrographs
A photomicrograph is an image taken with a light microscope. This includes very close macros of dandelions, water, bacteria, leaves, viruses – practically anything you want as long as it’s taken with a light microscope. In fact, the more creative you are, the better your entry will be. Light microscopes use only visible light rather than an electronic field and can magnify up to 2000x which allows you to see many tiny parts of cells.
How to Get the Best Image
While you’re not allowed to add graphics that doesn’t mean you can’t edit your images. If you’ve taken your image digitally then running it through editing software can get you enhanced colors, fun effects, and a much more impressive image. It can also clean up any areas that are unappealing. If you’re more of a scientist than a photographer (or not familiar with Photoshop), you can always approach a creative photography agency like SmartPHOTOeditors to do it for you.
A light microscope is something many people have played with as a kid, you can pick up toy versions in most stores that sell toys, and while the glass in these isn’t great, it’s enough to get an image. You can pick up a quality light microscope for a few hundred dollars. To take a photograph, hold your camera against the eyepiece of the microscope after you’ve focused the eyepiece with your eye.
Since part of the judging criteria is innovation, you can use any light microscope technique, for example, fluorescent, infra-red, polarized, or multiple techniques.
How to Enroll – Nikon’s Small World Content 2018
The deadline for Nikon Small World Enrollment for this year is April 30th, 2018. If you submit your entries after this date, then the image is automatically assigned to the 2019 competition. Competitors can enter by uploading images direct to the competition’s website. If you’re going to apply, there’s also an option to create an account with the competition where you can make up a bio page, set up information, and update your entries as necessary until the deadline. You don’t have to have an account to enter, but it wouldn’t hurt. There is no preference given to entries with an account. Anyone who is 18 or older can enter, and unless you’ve already won the top prize last year or your image has won another microphotography award previously you can enter. Obviously, Nikon employees and families, etc. are not allowed to enter the competition, and neither are people who sell microscopes or camera equipment. Previous entries have come from every continent in the world.
Top Prizes for the Best Photomicrograph
The judging is done with an independent panel of photography and photomicrography experts. The top prize for the day is $3000, with a total of 20 prizes listed with cash down to 20th place at $200, honorable mentions getting $100 each, and any Images of Distinction a gift of a Nikon Backpack. The top 3 prizes are paid by check, and the rest will receive their money on a Visa gift card.
If you have won, you’ll find that out by August 15th, 2018 and while your image will be used by Nikon, you’ll also get credit for it whenever that happens and retain the copyright. The images may also be used for next year’s Small World Calendar and other merchandise to do with the competition as well as being published in some scientific journals. After the winners are announced, the top twenty will be exhibited on tour for the year. The exhibition goes to Science centers and museums all over the continental US and Canada and features images dating from past competitions back until 1977 as well as the current year’s winners.